If you search #VanLife on Instagram right now, you'll find over 10.5 million images of people sprawled out in all sorts of vans, all around the world, parked next to picturesque ocean views and trees in the wilderness.
Or, if you're THIS guy...parked next to a dog beach in San Diego, California!
According to MSN, “The hashtag dates back to 2011 when photographer Foster Huntington used it for the first time."
"A decade later, the hashtag has grown to represent an entire lifestyle — a group of people who've given up traditional living to live in vehicles that have been turned into tiny houses."
“Van lifers opt for this lifestyle for the simplicity, minimalism and freedom it affords."
"Some simply travel; some work remotely from their vans as they roam; some take temporary gigs in the towns they visit along the way."
"Normally, they park their homes in fee-charging public or private campgrounds or in free campsites on public lands. If they need to pop into a city, they’ll post up on a street in front of a friend’s house or in the parking lot of a rec center, where they can also shower.”
“During the pandemic, camping, in general, has been popular. Sales of RVs have soared and could hit an all-time high this year, as many Americans hit the road for vacations instead of getting on a plane.”
Covid—19 sparked a whole new trend of #VanLife because it’s socially distanced, can be done on a budget, and encourages outdoor activities, which also provides much safety during this catastrophic global pandemic. Sounds pretty clutch (pun, intended).
But what if you can’t afford a new van? Some can cost more than $50,000. They key is to get it used!
Van lifers prefer smaller, cheaper vehicles because they can be taken everywhere and can serve as a daily vehicle if necessary. RVs can cost anywhere from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Most times, these people park their van in a beautiful location for a few minutes to get the photo, post it on social media, and then drive to a parking lot or a campground to spend their night.
Meet Garrison Lambert.
Originally from Seattle, Washington, Garrison moved to California and started modeling with Abercrombie & Fitch while shooting several international campaigns for Hollister.
I mean, just look at this stud!
From modeling to acting, the City of Angels became this young star's home for quite some time. In fact, I first met Garrison when he and his agent hired me to take these most recent set of headshots back in 2018. I say back in 2018 like it was ages ago, but the reality is, it was just three years ago!
If "Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius" could come to life, Garrison would be him. Look at his hair!
Garrison was "living the dream" in Los Angeles, auditioning for acting and modeling gigs, while also waiting tables at high-end restaurants in Downtown LA, as well as teaching yoga classes in Echo Park. But was this really his dream?
Fast forward three years to 2021...
Garrison quit his jobs, left LA LA land, grew out his hair, got a divorce, sold his Subaru for an old van, invested in some camera gear, and hit the road for a life less certain, but a life more his true style.
I caught up and interviewed Garrison when I was in San Diego a couple of months ago, whereby he suggested to meet at an awesome off-leash dog park.
We both had our dogs with us, so this was a stellar idea to ensure that all of us were happy!
Little did I know, Garrison is ALSO a dog whisperer!
Garrison was caffeinated and full of smiles that day.
His positive energy and zest for life is truly contagious.
See below for my full interview with him:
RR: How has Covid-19 impacted you personally?
“Well, at first it was all of the obvious ways. Shut downs, lock downs, quarantines, whatever you want to call them. As a yoga teacher and a restaurant server in Los Angeles all of my work disappeared. Naturally a lot of community came along with those places too and those communities either shifted on line or dissipated quite a bit.”
“Now that I live in a van full time, it’s little things that most people wouldn’t necessarily think of. There were closures to navigate with forest service land, national parks, finding places to camp, etc. Lots of public restrooms are still closed for some silly reason. I still can’t grind the coffee beans I buy at the grocery store. It’s trickier to find a gym with open showers, although as California opens up, showers open up too.”
“Personally, I haven’t ever been particularly worried about Covid, and I’m grateful that I haven’t had to deal with some of the intense anxiety and fear that has come along with this whole experience. I’m not in a high-risk demographic and I spend the majority of my time outside, naturally distanced, so I haven’t had to worry about potentially passing anything on to anyone either.”
“I miss community, I miss hugs and handshakes without the awkward pause before, I miss smiling at people as I walk past and getting a smile back instead of a dirty look because I’m typically not wearing a mask outside. I’m quite ready for the whole damn thing to be over.”
RR: Did you or anyone you know get Covid-19?
“I haven’t that I know of. It’s very rare I get sick. My whole family did around Thanksgiving as did their close circle of friends. So they had Covid Thanksgiving and no one could taste or smell very well.”'
RR: What specifically changed your personal / professional life during this time? I.E. what daily routine did you have to adjust?
“Good God everything. The story is far too long for this feature. But, very long story short, I lost all of my work, I got divorced, and I decided to move into my Subaru and start living on the road full time. I had been ready to leave LA for quite some time but was teaching at a wonderful yoga studio in Echo Park, Samarasa Center. We had just celebrated our 2nd birthday right before Covid hit. That studio was one of the main reasons I was still in LA. We were building an incredibly special community, and I wanted to see it through. Sometime in June, within the same week, I found out Samarasa was closing permanently, and my ex and I decided to end things. It didn’t make any sense to try and move to another city and find an apartment given the desolate job market.”
"I’ve wanted to live “van life” for years, so I followed my heart. I spent July-December living and traveling out of my Subaru Forester, and in January I bought my van, Blueddha (like Buddha, but blue)."
Garrison found Blueddha on Facebook Marketplace. Although it had 180,000 miles on it, Garrison’s negotiating tactics got the owner down from his $7,000 asking price to $4,100. Talk about a STEAL!
Garrison was up in Washington for the holidays and left the Subaru in San Diego. As fate would have it, the van happened to also be in San Diego, so he bought it the day he got back in town. Nice New Year’s gift!
The Subaru also went to a good home…Garrison’s partner’s brother bought it!
Garrison also invested in some used camera gear and began expanding his passion for photography!
"My daily routine is unbelievably different. I went from teaching 18-20 public yoga classes, 7 days a week, and serving tables 3 days a week just to pay the rent, to being outside 95% of the time with few bills, few possessions, and way more time to do the things that make me happy. Like surfing, taking photos, hiking, flying my kite…”
Speaking of few possessions, this is one that I thought was worth documenting.
“It’s my altar! The figure is Shiva, the Destroyer, in Hindu tradition. But without destruction there is no creation, rebirth, or transformation. Super symbolic of the last year both personally and on the bigger scale.”
"It was gifted to me by my good friend Houssain maybe 2 years ago...But it was one of the few possessions from my old home that came with me."
The sentimental key chain from his mom is something I found extremely meaningful.
Garrison's van also has a man-made bookshelf with some solid reads.
And we can't forget his wardrobe drawer, located conveniently underneath his bed! The actor in him still likes an outfit change here and there!
RR: Is there a story behind your mask?
“Actually the masks I’ve managed to not lose were given to me by my dear friend Charles who runs a very successful jewelry business in LA called 8 Other Reasons. I love that they’re adjustable. It took so many terrible masks to finally find a few that are semi tolerable. But I only wear these suckers when I have to.”
RR: What do you miss most about life before Covid-19?
“More than anything, live music and festivals. I miss getting freaky with my freaky people in a field. I miss dancing. I miss seeing my favorite bands."
RR: What has Covid-19 made you grateful for?
“Fresh air and community! I feel like my way of existing this last year has provided me with a lot more of those things than most. I’ve driven all across the country and seen friends from LA in all sorts of different places, whether they moved home or were traveling as well."
"The van life community is also the most warm and welcoming group of people out there. Especially since we all live outside, in general there isn’t much worry about getting each other sick. So ironically, in a year when most people were isolated, my circle expanded.”
RR: What has been the biggest challenge for you during this time?
“Honestly one of the biggest challenges has simply been to witness the state of our society, especially in the US. It’s depressing and discouraging to see how intensely our consumerist and capitalist mindset has steered us wrong. It seems as though we live in a way that seeks to eliminate uncertainty, and when uncertainty inevitably appears, fear, anxiety, division, and hate started to flourish rather than love, compassion, understanding."
"We were gifted this opportunity to do some serious internal work and make a shift on a universal level, and it still seems like we are still generally unwilling.”
RR: What are you most excited for when things return to “normal”?
“Well I’m tired of these damn masks for one. Perhaps more than anything I’d like to be done treating each other as though we’re all somehow contagious or dangerous."
"Personally though, I don’t see my life returning to “normal” any time soon. I’ve done normal, it didn’t make me happy. I’ll be out here in my van continuing to nurture and create my own reality with more happiness and way less stress.”
Thank you, Garrison, for sharing your Covid in California story with me! Keep being YOU and living your best life!
To keep up with Garrison's adventures, check out his Instagram!